A Libyan rebel fighter mourns over a fallen comrade whose body lies in the back of their fighting vehicle as they arrive at a mortuary in Ajdabiya on April 7, 2011. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
The incident comes amid complaints from rebels that the air strikes have not slowed the advance of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, and that they are often too late to have an impact on fighting in contested cities.
NATO says that it has difficulty conducting air strikes in places like Misrata, the western city that has been under siege by government troops for weeks. NATO claims hidden tanks and equipment within civilian areas make them difficult to distinguish by air.
“We have confirmation that in Misurata tanks are being dispersed, being hidden, humans being used as shields in order to prevent NATO sorties to identify targets,” said Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm, who heads NATO’s allied operations in Brussels, where the organization is headquartered.
Demonstrators in Benghazi protested the reduction of air strikes, some of them calling for arms and other kinds of support for the rebels. A U.S. envoy is in the opposition’s main city for a second day of meetings with its governing council to explore potential avenues for support.
Despite defecting army units and recruitment of fighters, the opposition’s forces remain out-gunned by Gadhafi’s more heavily equipped military.
Search for Bodies Continues in Japan
Despite high levels of radiation along eastern coastal areas in Japan, searchers are working to recover the bodies of the more than 15,000 people who have been missing since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11. There are fears that the search will become less and less feasible as time passes.
“We have to find bodies now as they are decomposing,” Ryoichi Tsunoda, a spokesman for the Fukushima prefecture police, said.
At the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, engineers are adding nitrogen into reactor 1 in an effort to counteract flammable hydrogen buildup. Officials hope to avoid hydrogen explosions like the ones that followed the initial earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Company says there is no immediate risk of such an explosion and that the use of nitrogen is a precaution.
On Wednesday, workers at the plant stopped a leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Officials are grappling with excessive amounts of radioactive water, some of which was initially used to cool the overheating reactors, and are disposing of some 10,000 tons of that water into the ocean. They say the type of radioactivity released will quickly dilute and has a relatively short half-life.
Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo Remains Hunkered in Home
Despite being surrounded by the forces of Alassane Ouattara, the winner of Ivory Coast’s November presidential vote, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo remains hunkered in his home in Abidjan. Gunfire could be heard in the city as opposing forces continued to battle each other.
French forces rescued Japanese Ambassador Okamura Yoshifumi from his home Wednesday after a gun battle with Gbagbo loyalists, who had seized his home and were firing weapons from the area. France has maintained a peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast since it gained independence in 1960 and has authorized its military to aid foreigners currently in the country. United Nations and French forces have targeted machinery belonging to Gbagbo’s forces.
Hundreds have died in the several months of fighting across the country.
Secretary of Defense Gates Addresses Troops in Baghdad
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Baghdad, where he met with troops at Camp Liberty and addressed concerns that a government shutdown could delay paychecks.
“I hope this thing doesn’t happen,” Gates said during a town-hall style meeting with troops.
He said that some troops may remain in the country past the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline should the Iraqi government request them, but he added, “[W]e’re going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning.”
Gates is scheduled to meet Thursday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.
For Gates, who plans to retire later this year, the unannounced trip is also likely his last as defense secretary.